37 answers

4 Year Old Behavior

I am wondering if any of you have experienced some of these characteristics with your 4 year old (I have a boy).
He can't stand tags in his clothing, socks are too tight, pants are too tight (even though they are not.....), no long sleeve shirts (can't stand them!). Behaviors he has are: tantrums....screaming, yelling, and hitting the bedroom door...etc... when we are transitioning him from one thing to the next...and he is not happy about the next event. We also are hearing from others that he is bugging other kids who are next to him (by touching, touching, touching) in pre-school and in church settings. He is not a naughty boy all the time, but I am just wondering if you all have kido-s like this? Is this normal 4 year old stuff.....or? We have been using a sticker behavior chart and have been having great success....however the outbursts-tantrums and bugging others has not decreased. Thanks so much for your thought! :)

2 moms found this helpful

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Maybe a sensory thing? My son has some sensory problems and he has fits as well. He is now almost seven. I keep a list of activities to re-route my kids from one thing to another and never, never have on anything, such as TV or stereo. I have to hear them at all times so I know when he is getting ready to blow.


Hi T.,
I have a five year old girl and she recently went through what I call a "phase" regarding the socks and the long sleeves and other clothes issues and it drove me insane especially because I work full time and drop her off at preschool in the morning on the way to work. Personally, I think it is a phase and with my daughter I believe that it was more acute or severe when she was tired or had not had a nap,I also really think that this is a control issue with her. When my daughter was going through the "phase" she kept telling me that the pants were "too stretchy" and "too tight" which made me laugh to myself as it was all of sudden, after wearing the same things forever now they are "tight" or "stretchy". I handled it by trying not to make a big deal out of it and appeasing her by being patient and allowing her to wear short sleeves if there was a shirt readily available. I think it is normal and is just something they go through. As far as the "bugging" thing, my daughter does it to me, I think it is an attention thing and she will do it to the point where I have told her ten times to please stop it as she pokes me or touches me. I then use my "super nanny" technique where I get down to her level and talk to her about it and why it is not nice. Not to be redundant, but I think they are all phases they go through and it is about control and attention. Ages 4 and 5 are difficult because they are becoming so independent yet they have little control over things and this is how they test the waters. Hang in there. I hope this helps.

I have a nephew who at right about the same age went thru the clothing issues as well as tantrums. He was diagnosed with some mild sensory integration issues and had some, I believe, occupational therapy to overcome it. He had issues with seasons -changing from long pants to shorts, t-shirts to sweaters, sandals to gym shoes, etc. He is now 12 years old and completely outgrown the behaviors - still will throw a tantrum or two - but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Hi T.-

From what you have described, your son may have sensory processing disorder. This is when a person's nervous system does not perceive input from the senses in a normal way. Some children are extremely sensitive, some extremely underresponsive to stimuli, and other seek out lots of stimuli, as if they can't get enough. There are varying degrees of spd, and many kids have combinations of both. These kids have major problems with transitions, and can seem oversensitive to the point of tantrums. Both my children have this, although my daughter to a lesser degree than my son. Find an occupational therapist trained in this disorder, and have your son evaluated. They will give you a questionaire about your son's behaviors. I don't know what area you live in, otherwise I might be able to recommend one.

Some books on this disorder are: Out of Sync Child, Sensational Kids, The Sensory Sensitive Child. A good therapist can help a lot. Even though your son is 4, don't count on the school district's OT to have a clue. Some school OTs are well-versed, and knowledgeable, but others are not, and don't even recognize this disorder. Please let me know if you need anything else, and good luck. It's not easy to live with a child with this, but once it's recognized, and you get some help and strategies, it makes life MUCH better.

Just wanted to add something after reading the other responses: Your son can have sensory processing disorder without having autism or Asperger's. It often is seen in combination with other disorders as well, like Down's syndrome and cerebral palsey. So don't get worried about that yet. ALSO, there are many pediatricians who don't know about this disorder, so don't leave it up to your physician. I've heard too many stories about parents KNOWING something was wrong with their child, and the pediatrician refuting them. In the end, every parent I talked to turned out to be right! I'm a teacher, and I have a student in first grade who is obviously Aspergers, but the pediatrician has never mentioned one word to his parents.

1 mom found this helpful

Hello T.. First off I want to apologize for all the other mothers going right for your son having some kind of disorder or issue.

I might be wrong and he very well may have one of the many medical issues those other mothers listed, but I put myself in your shoes, and reading all 22 what I'd call negative responses would make me very sad. And I'm apologizing for them if you felt that way.

A lot of the things you mentioned clothes issues; My son too, I just figure my son's picky. and he'd get over it which he has. The tag thing I totally understand I don't like tags either; their itchy! He's 5 by the way. The tantrums; he still has when he doesn't get his way;power struggles. The yelling, hitting people or throwing things only happens when he's really upset. Usually talking to him to calm him and trying to reason with him works. He is having some issues at preschool as well similar to your son. Eating other peoples food, drinking their drinks, and not keeping his hands to himself. Which he denies all of it. When I've packed him his own drink, and food. I still can't figure that one out. And he just won't sit still for 5 minutes, we're working on that at home.

I not for one minute thought or will think that my son has any "issue" or "disorder". He's just a normal preschooler adapting to the new rules, environment, people, etc.. Maybe I've failed him by not teaching him things I should have previously, but I feel he's normal. I'm the only one (besides maybe grandma) that truly understands what kind of person he is, and where he's coming from (I think I know what he might've been thinking when he was drinking someone else's drink). And it was innocent, I'm sure.

He sounds VERY similar to my 4 year old son! My son has Autism, and has been in early intervention programs since he was 2, so we are working past most of that stuff.
I would talk to your pediatrician, and look into getting him screen before things get worse. Even if it's nothing, it is worth checking into!

Hi T.,

The first part of your post sounds like you were describing my daughter as a 3 and 4 year old! However, she did not go through a period of touching others in school/church settings.
She is now 5 and the clothing issues are getting much better. What worked for me best was...... making compromises/meeting her in the middle with issues regarding clothes, and knowing I did not have to win every battle. For example, I would let her wear a short sleeve shirt sometimes even if it was cold outside. (She would still have to wear a coat outside of course.) As long as there is heat in a building, he will be fine wearing short sleeves. Some issues might go away and actually reverse itself. For example, my daughter would not wear turtlenecks when she reached 3. So I gave up and said to myself.... don't waste your money on anymore turtlenecks. Now.... she'll pick out her clothes and come downstairs wearing a turtleneck. I actually told her last week that she might want to take it off because it was going to be pretty warm outside!

It's easy to deal with the tags..... just cut them off or buy clothes that are tagless. ( I am seeing more of that.) I cannot stand tags myself, and I don't like long sleeves that are too tight around my upper arm. So I can kind of feel for my daughter.

Find the clothes that your son does like and buy many in different colors. Elastic pants/shorts work best for my daughter because there are no buttons near her tummy and because they are so soft. Loose sleeved short sleeves work best for her too. So I know to stay away from any short sleeved shirts that she can actually feel wrapped around her arm.

Sticker charts work better for her now that she is getting older. What really helps is that she gets to pick out the reward from the dollar store. We put these items in a "treasure chest" and on Sundays, if she has earned enough happy faces, she gets to pick out something from the chest. She is also learning what is worth a dollar and what is not. She has even said.... mommy I don't think I want this because it looks like it could break easily.

She is happy it is getting warmer because she will be able to wear sandals without socks!

She will sometimes complain that it is too bright for her, too. Our pediatrician said her eyes were fine. She is just a bit sensitive in this area, as well.

Things are much better around here lately. Oh and she does have a twin brother who does not have any of these issues. Take care and good luck!


Hi T.,
My response is two part. First, I am so glad to read your question. I, too have a son that will be 4 at the end of this month. For the past several months he has been exhibiting the very same behaviors - except for the tag thing which we went through at age 2. So, it's very nice to know that other boys are doing the these things also.

Second, I am a special ed school social worker in a pre-k through 8 building. What I have learned from working with kids and families is that we all tend to want to label every behavior and give every kids some sort or diagnosis. My advice to you is to take a step back and look at your son objectively. He's just a boy. My friends who only have girls don't understand that boys are so different. My daughter(2) hasn't gone through hardly any of the same stages as my son. Relax. He'll most likely be fine, though we're not sure sometimes if we'll survive, right?

It sounds to me he might have some kind of PDD or something else on the autism spectrum. You might want to disscuss this with your docter. My son has PDD. One of his Kindergarden teachers were describing the same things. He did not know about personal space. He was having problems with social interaction. Does your son get stuck on one issue and not seem to let it go. I mean for my son it is like when he stresses out he becomes fixed on one certain thin. WHen he was littler it was boxes and robots. he had to have the same thing for breakfeast made the same way every morning. I hope this helps if you have anymore questions please feel free to email me at ____@____.com

Try not to see this as "naughty boy" stuff, but rather as sensory issues that he needs your help with. It is possible that he has more serious sensory issues as others have referred to, or that these are just preferences that he will outgrow. My kids outgrew those sorts of things, other kids do not. In any case, try talking to him about the challenges he faces, like explain to him what transitions are coming up and help him think of a plan to make it easier for him. Or explain, without judging him, why other kids might not like being touched, and ask him for ideas on other things he can do instead that might not bug people. He may have some compulsions that need some sort of release, but you can help him by offering your support in developing alternative ideas.

Hi T.

I too have a almost 4 year old that has a lot of the same characteristics and like some of the other moms have had my son tested and he is seeing an OT and speech at pre-school and this is not enough it has taken me over 2 years to get my child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician as there are long waiting lists.

Hope all of these resources help you. Keep discussing with your pediatrician and if you get nowhere with them start asking others for numbers for developmental pediatricians.

Good luck.

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